Disclosed party donations lowest since records began
POLITICAL PARTIES last year disclosed the lowest level of donations since records began, despite the fact that it was a general election year, according to the standards watchdog.
The Standards in Public Office Commission yesterday published figures which showed only €30,997 in donations was disclosed by political parties, notwithstanding multimillion-euro budgets for the election campaign last year.
The two biggest parties, Fine Gael and Labour, declared no political donations at all, suggesting all donations received by both parties were below the €5,078.95 threshold.
Only three parties disclosed donations. They were the Socialist Party, amounting to €12,649; Sinn Féin, which disclosed €12,000; and Fianna Fáil, which disclosed €6,348. The donations made to the Socialist Party came from its TD Joe Higgins and its MEP Paul Murphy.
Similarly, Sinn Féin’s two donations came from TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Martin Ferris.
The sole declared donation that came from a non-politician was from Cork-based Edward Quinlan, who donated €6,348 to Fianna Fáil.
Transparency International last night said the practice by parties of targeting donations below the declarable threshold had been going on for years.
“It shows the urgent need for more timely disclosure of party funding,” said its advocacy and research manager Nuala Haughey last night. “The parties should be publishing annual accounts in ways that are accessible to easy scrutiny by the public.
“They should also be published in real time and updated, especially at important times like the period leading up to elections,” she said.
The commission also published details last night that showed political parties received a total of €12.6 million in exchequer funding last year.
The funding, introduced as a quid pro quo in 1997 for lower donation thresholds, showed Fine Gael was the biggest recipient, with €4.75 million.
Fianna Fáil received a little over €3 million between its party leader’s allowance and funding under the electoral acts.
The Labour Party received €2.8 million, while Sinn Féin received €1.6 million in State funding.
The Socialist Party and People Before Profit each received €120,000, while Independent TDs all received a sum of €41,000 in party leaders’ allowances.
The Green Party received no funding last year as its electoral support fell below 2 per cent in the 2011 general election.
The Government promised to ban corporate donations in its programme for government. Its legal advice on taking office, however, was that it could not implement a blanket ban. A Bill drafted by the Minister for the Environment proposes to ban all donations worth more than a few hundred euro.
Fine Gael, in particular, spent heavily on last year’s general election campaign. But there are no public records available to indicate the extent of its spending, which ran into several million euro.
The commission also disclosed that the Communist Party of Ireland had not yet furnished a statutory declaration. “The Standards Commission will refer a file to the Gardaí on the Communist Party’s failure to comply with the statutory requirements,” it said in a statement.